Does "fit" refer to soft skills? Or could it be as random as your accent, the way you look, or something like that

Would you consider it a kiss of death when a potential employer says "You won't be a good fit" i.e. "we do not like you and there is no way you will work here".

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Dec 28, 2018 at 5:48
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    My employer doesn't even go this far. Our statement to people who are not hired is "We have decided not to proceed with your application."
    – EvilSnack
    Dec 28, 2018 at 16:54
  • Usually this is code for “too old”
    – Gaius
    Jan 2, 2019 at 21:56

7 Answers 7


And would you consider it a kiss of death when said by a potential employer

Yes. It translates into: "We're done considering you and the result was negative. No, we're not going to tell you exactly what was wrong. It might be your personality, what we think is your skill set, work ethic, communication skills, or whatever. We've had this conversation lots with others and our lawyers inform us that we can say this without legal exposure."

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    On the plus side, I've seen well qualified people that simply seemed like they wouldn't fit in. So it isn't always just a figure of speech. Which makes it easier to not worry too much about it and move on. And that's what you should probably do.
    – bytepusher
    Dec 26, 2018 at 13:25
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    As employers we are obligated to ensure, as well as possible, that a new hire won't have an undue impact on the team they join, or on the working relationship of that team with clients - and, with some candidates, the lack of fit becomes painfully obvious. However, "lack of fit" does not mean "we won't tell you why" - we can be obligated by HR policy to give a specific explanation if asked. Giving such feedback, when policy requires it, is one of the more stressful parts of recruitment processes on the selection panels.
    – Peter
    Dec 26, 2018 at 16:19
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    @Peter - HR might or might not want the phrase to be explained. My guess would be that HR would not want the phrase to be explained more. For example, HR surely wouldn't want a female candidate to be told that "We only want to hire a male," even though that may be true. The phrase purposely is non-descriptive and leaves the candidate with no indication if the reason is some bias or a deficiency.
    – MaxW
    Dec 26, 2018 at 20:18
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    @DirkHorsten I'm not going to downvote your answer but imho any actions after "the kiss of death" are simply a waste of time and emotion. I spent weeks trying to protest the religion of "fit" on behalf of a local, 4.0 candidate who could instantly answer SW questions better than I can. Dude was probably a walks-on-water genius and that didn't help. Dec 27, 2018 at 12:50
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    @DirkHorsten This is the correct Answer because it directly addresses the two specific points of the Question: (a) Meaning of the phrase “not a good fit” — It means we are rejecting you and refuse to discuss why, (b) is it the kiss-of-death, meaning no further avenue in the hiring process — Indeed, this phrase has evolved specifically to indicate end-of-the-road in hiring. As for your complaint that this Answer “does not help you getting any further in your job search”, the Question did not ask for help in getting further. A Stack Exchange works on specifics, not open-ended discussion. Dec 27, 2018 at 23:38

Adding a slightly different perspective: Fit is NOT an empty phrase but the single most important part of the hiring decision. The job of the interview team is to figure out whether the candidate is a "good fit" for the role. "Fit" breaks down into a bunch of different components

  1. Technical skills, stuff for the immediate role, adjacent and orthogonal skills.
  2. Experience, learning curve, time required to fill gaps
  3. General critical thinking, learning ability
  4. Cultural fit: communication style, management style, amount of hand holding required, personality, ego to skill ratio, etc.
  5. Career fit candidate: is that a logical step for the candidate or is she looking for something else and this is a stop gap
  6. Career fit employer: can we see a credible long term growth scenario for that person here.
  7. Family, personal stuff: relocation, commute, buy in from partner/family, etc.
  8. Money: do candidate goals and employer range overlap enough

Any single one of these being out of whack can mean "not a fit" and, yes, that is the end of this application.

In most cases "not a fit" is GOOD outcome. It simply represents the facts and hiring a person that's not a fit for any of the reasons above, just makes everyone miserable: colleagues, manager, and new hire tend to have a bad time and the final outcome is never good.

I understand, it's frustrating to receive the "no fit" answer without further details. However, if you keep your eyes and ears open during they interview process and go mentally through your own fit check list, you can typically tell what's happening and why. You may actually come to the same conclusion yourself.

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    If "not a good fit" can mean anything, then it means nothing.
    – Peter
    Dec 27, 2018 at 12:56
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    All very well and good but IRL the possibility of those meanings being intended by the phrase is just legal cover for the actual use of the phrase, which (as many have said) is simply "we don't like you and we don't want to tell you why". Maybe their decision is illegally discriminatory or maybe they're just worried about spurious litigation to that effect. But either way they need a 'placeholder phrase' that provides legal plausible deniability. That plausible deniability is the justifications you've listed.
    – benxyzzy
    Dec 27, 2018 at 13:54
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    THIS. No need for conspiracy theories, most people are unfit for most jobs. If it wasn't the case, we wouldn't need interviews.
    – Agent_L
    Dec 27, 2018 at 15:21
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    It is not the kiss of death from the employer, but a kiss of death for this particular position. You may still be a good fit for another position at the employer.
    – Ole Tange
    Dec 27, 2018 at 23:34

I would consider it the kiss of death in an interview process.

Odds are you believe in something that is fundamentally opposed within the organization, or there is some other reason (one the company would prefer to keep unsaid to avoid bad press) which is being expressed but not voiced.

I'd try to mentally recall the entire interview. Who did the talking? When did the facial expressions change to indicate displeasure? What was said before that happened, and if that couldn't be misconstrued badly, how was it said?

It's not a sure-fire formula for figuring out where something went wrong. It's just a starting place, adjust it to fit your needs.

  • I've been in a hiring process where the candidates were technically well suited, but where we thought they wouldn't fit in the workplace culture. It really was the "don't think you would fit" reason. Dec 29, 2018 at 2:39

Without further explanation, "You won't be a good fit" is as generic as it could be, and it is a kiss of death, unless you are assertive enough to ask questions (and persevere in doing so until you get answers).

As you have not much to lose anymore, you can take the risk to ask anything, like

  • What would it take to fit in better?
  • Do you see a mismatch with the function, the team or the company culture?
  • Is there a different team or function in your company in which I would fit better?
  • Do you know a company in your industry whose company culture would fit me better?

Beware you are in an exceptional position now: you do have access to a person who knows the industry. That person sees him/herself as the one who turned you down and would be much happier to see him/herself as the one who gave you advice.

Do both of you a favor and act now.


My optimism gets a lot of negative feed back, mainly from people that are afraid the hiring manager or recruiter you contact might not appreciate being bothered or even questioned by you. I aggree this is a risk, but it is one worth taking.

It is a risk because they might not want to discuss the reason why you are not hired.

(It could be embarrassing or even illegal, e.g. discrimination) Therefore ask what you could do better, never ask what is wrong. The first question I suggested is the most dangerous.

It is also a risk

because some people only see you as a resource, which accidentaly is human. These recruiters and hiring managers don't care about you, not when you get the job and even less when you don't. If they remember you needlesly bothering them in the past, they will reject you in the future.

But the riks is worth taking

because others see you as a human, which might become a resource. They not only like to help humans, they also know humans are capable of improving themselves using feedback. If they remember you valuing their feedback in the past, they will valuate your effort to fit in in the future.

I don't mind burning bridges to the first type of recruiter while building bridges to the second type. They will propose me jobs in which I will be productive and happy.

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    I'm compelled to downvote too. There are things to lose and no, candidate cannot take the rist to ask anything. It is not professional and if the hiring manager answers some of these questions it might give enough grounds for a lawsuit as stated in other comments. The hiring manager won't be happier to give you advice, and your fourth bullet point might be misinterpreted as a referral. "both of you a favour[sic]?" I bet the hiring manager has a ton of other interviews/work to do besides doing free consulting for a failed candidate. I'm actually downvoting after writing my comment. Dec 26, 2018 at 14:35
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    @DirkHorsten Maybe you should consider why you keep needing advice from outplacement consultants. (Hint: their basic objective is to earn money for themselves, not to find you a permanent job).
    – alephzero
    Dec 26, 2018 at 16:37
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    I replaced the word Random with Generic. I suspect your answer will be better recieved now. Dec 26, 2018 at 18:43
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    I don't understand the downvotes. Asking what a candidate could have done better or differently is paramount to self-improvement.
    – Cypher
    Dec 26, 2018 at 19:41
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    @Mindwin What is there to lose?
    – John K
    Dec 26, 2018 at 19:43

It does not have to be the total kiss of death, but it probably is.

  • A candidate has to match a gap in the team. That covers hard skills, soft skills, and personality. Even if workers in a team are nominally equals, there will be leaders and followers, attention to detail and attention to the big picture, people who jolt the team out of the daily grind and people who take care of the daily chores.
    It could be that you do not fit now, but that there will be a phone call or email six months from now asking if you are still free. Because there is a different gap then.
  • A company might have multiple gaps in multiple teams, and "not a good fit" is the preface to handing the candidate to another team than the one he or she applied for. In that case they'd make this very clear.

But most likely they're telling the candidate that there will be no job offer.


I have used the "Good fit" line a few times. Sometimes it's a personality thing (very Type A, etc), sometimes I felt like the person was overqualified (and I risked having a bored developer) for the role with no likelihood of the requirements changing, etc. For one person, I knew his personality would be a complete clash with what the CEO was used to (loud, very opinionated, very blunt, very chatty, etc -- qualities (other than loud) I would have hired for if it was my company).


I always took this response as the company relizing my capabilities were way to big, ground breaking, and exploritory for there narrow minded conseptionsons of the idle workplace idalagies of how to succeed that they have built of others previous work. So with no true drive for growth or success anywhere in there near future. This response was taken graciously by me for showing me my misconception of what I thought they were to begin with. So one may say kiss of death, however I like to look at it more as a foreplay for either they soon wish I was on there team, or the company never truly wanted to lead but just follow. So in that be forgiving and lead them to where they were looking for through the light of the compatition that they will only try to mirror. So Thank them for not putting you though the pain of a loveless relationship, and then help them succeed through building that bridge that Noone dared to for lack of forsite. My thoughts on it anyway, and also yeah your not getting that position as of that moment, but moments are just that. Also remember not every door won't reopen, most of others are call cell doors and you don't to go there anyway.😎😎😎

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